Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Washington Supreme Court: State constitution bans charter schools.

The Washington State Supreme Court abolished charter schools in September after it held their funding violated the state constitution. The League of Women Voters, Association of Superintendents, and Washington Education Association (teachers) sued Washington over the funding of charter schools.  They argued the funding of charter schools violated the constitution's mandate for the state to protect the funding of public schools.   The court based its entire ruling on Article IX Section 2 of the state constitution:

The legislature shall provide for a general and uniform system of public schools. The public school system shall include common schools, and such high schools, normal schools, and technical schools as may hereafter be established. But the entire revenue derived from the common school fund and the state tax for common schools shall be exclusively applied to the support of the common schools.
The Court thus pronounced::
that the provisions of I-1240 that designate and treat charter schools as common schools violate article IX, section 2 of our state constitution and are void. This includes the Act's funding provisions, which attempt to tap into and shift a portion of moneys allocated for common schools to the new charter schools authorized by the Act.

In November 2012, Washington voters approved I-1240, codified in the Act,providing for the establishment of up to 40 charter schools within five years.... But the new schools came with a trade-off: the loss of local control and1local accountability....

Under the Act, charter schools are devoid of local control from their inception to their daily operation.1 Charter schools can be approved in two ways. First, the Washington Charter School Commission, which is an "independent state agency" established by the Act and made up of nine appointed members, has the power to establish charter schools anywhere in the State. (Similar to Mississippi)...

As for funding, the Act requires the superintendent to apportion funds to charter schools on the same basis as public school districts. Such disbursements include basic education moneys appropriated by the legislature in the biennial operating budget for the use of common schools and moneys from the common school construction fund.....
The Court stated what it considered charter schools to be:
The trial court held that charter schools are not "common schools" under article IX of Washington's constitution and, therefore, the common school construction fund could not be appropriated to charter schools.
The Court said it didn't matter whether charter schools hurt the state but that the only issue was whether it detracted from funding public education and thus violated the constitution:
The issue for this court is what are the requirements of the constitution....
The Court adhered to a definition of public schools in an earlier case (Are public schools defined in I42?):
a common school, within the meaning of our constitution, is one that is common to all children of proper age and capacity, free, and subject to and under the control of the qualified voters of the school district. The complete control of the schools is a most important feature, for it carries with it the right of the voters, through their chosen agents, to select qualified teachers, with powers to discharge them if they are incompetent.
but then ruled that charter schools did not meet this definition because
charter schools under 1-1240 are run by an appointed board or nonprofit organization and thus are not subject to local voter control, they cannot qualify as "common schools" within the meaning of article IX.
 Then the Court got around to reviewing the funding of charter schools and decreed
As Bryan noted, when adopting our constitution the people of this state "endeavored to protect and preserve the funds set apart by law for the support of the common school from invasion, so that they might be applied exclusively to ... such schools." Id. at 502. As discussed above, charter schools do not qualify as common schools. As explained below, by diverting common school funds to charter schools, the Act contravenes article IX, section 2 of the Washington Constitution....
 Our constitution requires the legislature to dedicate state funds to support "common schools." As noted, section 2 provides that "the entire revenue derived from the common school fund and the state tax for common schools shall be exclusively applied to the support of the common schools." !d. Section 3 establishes a separate construction fund for the sole use of the common schools. Using any of those funds for purposes other than to support common schools is unconstitutional...
 The court ruled that common school fund money could not be spent on charter schools.  However, the legislature can spend general fund money on charter schools, right? Wrong.  The court ruled the legislature could not spend any money if it was not in the common school account:
we find unconvincing the State's view that charter schools may be constitutionally funded through the general fund.....
Our constitution directs the legislature to establish and fund common schools and restricts the legislature's power to divert funds committed to common schools for other purposes even if related to education.
 We also disagree with the State's view that the Act's remaining provisions are saved because funding "follows the student" and in any event charter schools could be funded out of the state general fund.....
 The court then made it clear that it knew its ruling would abolish charter schools:
The Act identifies charter schools as common schools and is expressly reliant on common school funding to support such charter schools. That a funding source is required for the existence of charter schools is self-evident. As discussed above, the Act specifically intends to use common school funding allocations as that source. Without a valid funding source the charter schools envisioned in I-1240 are not viable. Moreover, I- 1240's voters' pamphlet stressed that the funding for charter schools will come from existing funding sources in the form of a "shift [in] revenues" from "local public school districts to charter schools." CP at 549. In sum, without funding, charter schools are not viable.
Just a harmless little exercise in judicial review. 

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Who wants to wager that there are more than a few public school lobbyists who would argue that charter schools detract from the "adequacy and efficiency" of Mississippi's public schools?

Anonymous said...

Exactly! That's the worst part about Initiative 42 - the idea that a judge might decide what is adequate and efficient. Clearly it would be more efficient to not have charter schools and save on buses, buildings, etc.

Electric Paddle said...

The only response to this is.........."OH SHIT!"

And anybody who still thinks that 'the people' have control over processes involving our children is bat shit crazy. The Federal Government owns us lock, stock and classroom.

Anonymous said...

Can someone tell me what the definition of a fully funded school is in Mississippi, or is that a moving target decided by the 42 crowd on a case by case basis?

Anonymous said...

Electric Paddle: the decision was issued by a state supreme court that rested its decision on its state's constitution. The first two comments above make no sense.

This lawyer says... said...

JUDICIAL TYRANNY

They're Everywhere.... said...

'Not having charter schools' would 'save on buses and buildings'?

Ahem.....The concept of charter schools is not based on saving money, Gumpster, but saving children.

Anonymous said...

This blog is truly blessed with so many experts on the constitution and case law of the state of Washington.

Anonymous said...

Simple question. Why doesn't Feel, Tater, and company simply change the MAEP formula so that their perceived (rightly or wrongly) adequate funding amount would be in compliance with their own law?

This whole thing reminds me of the folks in Washington who are willing to ignore the laws that they themselves passed in order to make a political statement.

Expert Numero Uno said...

Many thanks October 15, 2015 at 11:55 AM for the accolades. Yes, I am an expert on most things and fortunately for us you are not.

Cheers.

Phonics Are Kool said...

Yes, I am an expert on most things and fortunately for us you are not.

..........Well, not counting comma placement.

bill said...

Good question, 3:47. The answer may be that the leadership in the legislature is fearful of starting something they can't finish. Although there will be four fewer of them come January, there are still Republican legislators sprinkled throughout the House who are beholden to - or afraid of - the superintendents back home. I'm not sure how many, but I don't think it would be a straight party line vote in the House.

Anonymous said...

As long as everything is a straight, party line vote we will continue to be last in everything.

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If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

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